Monthly Archives: December 2012

Reconsider – The XX (Jamie XX remix)

This thought seems to occur quite often at the moment. Why are there three members in the XX? Can’t Romy and the other one just bugger off and keep quiet while Jamie XX does EVERYTHING. Ok, so perhaps that might not work too well. But the XX’s follow-up LP, Coexist, is OK. But it felt a bit derivative. Since LP1, Jamie XX has become the real star. His remix album of Gil-Scott Heron was phenomenal, and a couple of his own tracks he put out, such as ‘Far Nearer’, are just plain brilliant.

So here we have an XX track, remixed by a member of the XX. Like dogs eating dogs. But this is one tasty dog.

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Dev Hynes – Balls, oranges and Beyonce’s little sis

Dev Hynes. A name that is no doubt fairly well-known in our strange little music criticism world. But beyond our obsessive compulsive fanaticism of the music industry, amongst the musical ‘plebs’ if you will (thanks Andrew Mitchell), he certainly is not as revered as he deserves to be. His musical path hasn’t been straight forwards. It’s been a windy river, journeying into the murky depths of dance-punk as part of the band Test Icicles, flowing to the eddies of a solo acoustic-folk project called Lightspeed Champion. From there, he jumped ship to create grooved-out R ‘n B  under the moniker Blood Orange. And now he’s moved away from the spotlight to work with Solange, the oh-so-obviously sister of Beyonce. So this here is a bit of an ode to the man.

Test Icicles

The band that described their success as something of a joke gone awry, their sound was a visceral collision of confusing genre strands. It’s equal measures punk, pop, metal, and a little math-rock. The band name was originally Balls, but switched to the much more subtle Test Icicles. The first track I heard was ‘Boa vs Python’, a blizzard of noise and fiery biscuits, but beneath all of that there’s some sneaky melodies and hooks in there. A bidding war broke out to sign the band, they ultimately signed to Domino, released one full length record, and split up not so long after. Hynes explained to NME that “We were never, ever that keen on the music. I understand that people liked it, but we personally, er, didn’t.”


Lightspeed Champion

This is where I have to take a bit of a backseat. I never really got into Lightspeed Champion. There’s no particular reason why, sometimes things just don’t work out. So, here’s a picture of a kitten.

kitten
Blood Orange

For some reason I just fell for Blood Orange straight off the bat. I love the sparse R ‘n B atmosphere, where an artist doesn’t try to hang too many bells and whistles onto a beat, and Hynes as Blood Orange found a way of making that happen. Tracks like ‘Dinner’ and ‘Champagne Coast’ just have a warm fuzzyness to them. Delicate flickerings of guitar or keys come fluttering across, but at no point become overbearing. I love listening to one of these tracks and then jumping back to a Test Icicles track, it sounds like the equivalent of Lars Ulrich of Metallica announcing he’s going to embark on a folk-rap side project.

Blood Orange’s only LP, ‘Coastal Grooves’ came out in 2011, so what has Hynes been up to since then? Well. . . (besides working with Theophilus London and Sky Ferreira).

Solange

Why, he’s been working with Beyonce’s little sister of course! The UK is going a little crazy over her track ‘Losing You’ at the moment, and it sounds like Hynes has still got his Blood Orange hat on. It sounds easy, uncomplicated and effortless. The track comes from a forthcoming 7-track EP to come in January 2013 and I’d expect to hear more of the same. And then after that, what’s next for Dev Hynes? Who the funk knows. But the odds are that it’ll be worth a listen, and I can leave the kitten pictures where they should be, on Tumblr.

A year for Punk!

GnarTowards the end of the year it’s a bit of a tradition to get a bit listy. But this year, borne partly out of the fact that I’ve read a million year-end lists on music sites, and already contributed to other lists, I’ve decided the world doesn’t need another. But what I will do is post up a few highlights and Spotify playlists instead.

Ohio’s Cloud Nothings ‘Attack on Memory’ came early in 2012, and for me it was a beautifully unexpected smack in the face, but it set the tone for a great year for Punk. From the visceral fiercness of Metz to the pop-punk overtures of Gnarwolves, and plenty in between. Japandroids 2nd LP is easily one of my favourite records of the year; an anthemic ode to maximalist guitars and euphoric vocals.

And finally, hey! Blink 182 have a new EP out! And it’s good! When have Blink ever released an EP before? Part of me thinks (and is too lazy to research) that they haven’t, at least for a long long time, but it feels like a smart move.

So all this, and a little bit more, is in the Spotify playist below!

Miguel – Do You [And a BBC Sound of 2013 half-rant]

homepage_large.99369138Late last night, the BBC Sound of 2013 longlist was announced, with 15 different artists populating the list. As has been said before, it’s obviously a very self-fulfilling prophecy. The panel aren’t going to pick a 21-year old playing with a triangle in Stranraer. Pretty much all of the artists and groups selected have a long form release coming out in 2013, and are all doing so for the first time. So it leaves things feeling a little bit obvious and contrite. Also, the overbearing hype that these 15 will get means that it’ll further boost their profile.

This sounds like a bit of angry rant, and I’m not sure that it isn’t. However, there are some artists on there that I am very excited to hear what they have to offer in 2013. AlunaGeorge first and foremost. First mentioned in these parts back in April, their debut LP has the potential to be brilliant. Chvrches is another band on the list that has caught my eye recently. ‘The Mother We Share’ is a great track, with a clear and obvious parallel to be drawn to the likes of  M83. Even the ‘oh’s’ at the end sound like they’ve been pulled off of an M83 track, but it’s still its own beast, with a bubblegum sweetness and squirreling synths.

So where does this have to do with the headline? Well, shortly after hearing the list announced, I finally got around to listening to the Miguel album, Kaleidoscope Dream. It’s one of those albums that I’ve heard thrown around endlessly for the last couple of months, but I’d never got around to listening to it. So last night, I took the plunge.

It’s something special. It’s R n’ B without the overbearing bells and tassels of R-Kelly. It’s got the laid back groove of Frank Ocean (and drug references to boot). But really, it’s just a smooth, hook-filled monster.

I’ve listened endlessly to ‘Do You’ today, from the album. It starts of in a Washed Out meets R n’ B at the beach, before sharpening up and flexing its muscles. Just after a minute, the bass and drums come back-flipping in, magnifying the excellence of what’s already been layered up. Lyrically, it’s a little sickly and schmultzy, but after expressing my fanaticism for Bon Iver’s ‘Beth/Rest’ last year, you’ll know that it works sometimes. And with a line like “I’m gonna do you like drugs,” you can see it’s not all puppydogs and flowers.

So while this seems like two different points here, there is some logic behind it. Yes, it is terribly exciting that there is this new list of 15 artists that everyone will be getting very excited about over the next month or two (AlunaGeorge will win), my point is, there’s plenty going on outside this little bubble, and lots of brilliant new music just waiting to be heard. This is Miguel’s second album, far better than the first, and sometimes artists and groups need that time to grow. My fear is that the BBC Sound of 2013 can place an overbearing and overwhelming pressure on all 15 to come up with something amazing, or be doomed to fail. But failing is fine. One way or another, we all get a second chance.

Check out ‘Do You’ by Miguel below.

 

AlunaGeorge – This Is How We Do It

This cover of Montell Jordan’s 1995 SMASH ‘This Is How We Do It’ by AlunaGeorge is a little bit nice. I’ve been patiently waiting for a YT version to pop up, but alas and alack, it hasn’t happened. So Soundcloud will have to do. The cover was done for the ageless Trevor Nelson on BBC Radio 1 Xtra. Have a listen below!